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Key to success: To play with a free mind

india Updated: Apr 06, 2010 00:28 IST
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If there's one major difference between our World T20 winning mindset in 2007 and now, it's in a state of mind called freedom.

Then, none of us really knew anything about T20 cricket. What we did know is that this looked like fun. You went out and played with absolute freedom and didn't think too much about what you needed to do. Because of that attitude, there was no real pressure — because there were no real expectations and it was the beginning of our discovery of this format.

In the time since, this world has completely changed. T20 cricket has changed in the sense of the time and effort dedicated to it. And our attitudes to it have changed. Now, especially with the IPL, it's serious business — in every sense of the word. And with that have come accompanying pressures and expectations.

I'm not sure that's fair, to players or teams. Despite the strategies, planning and detailed analysis that now go into each game, it's still essentially bang-bang cricket. So, unlike in 50-over cricket, where you can still stand around and grind out the runs if you're out of form, in this format you have no choice but to walk into the middle and whack the ball, even if you're feeling low about your game, especially in an intense, rapid-fire contest like the IPL, where there's no time to breathe or relax between games.

I read an interview with Brendon McCullum where he said that you shouldn't ever feel like a failure in this format because you're bound to have more failures. I completely agree but it's not easy. As a result, T20 cricket can get you down if you allow it to and that's what we need to guard against.

What will help is if players aren't judged on the basis of T20 performances. There's so little time to come back and you're really betting against yourself to do so, if you're in the middle of a lean patch. Depending on an individual's mental make-up, it can get depressing — though there are those happy-go-lucky guys who go out and wallop the ball come what may.

But as a captain, what I tell all my players is that whatever contribution they make, however little, it is valuable in a certain context.

I also tell them to go easy on the expectations, know that the chance of failure is high, and just play with freedom. That's the only way you can succeed — if you just allow yourself to express yourself.

Which is really what we should do tomorrow against KKR — a very dangerous team. In Sourav, they have a canny captain and in the Eden crowd, they'll have a 45,000-strong 12th man. It's all very exciting but a tremendous challenge and a test of character. One we hope to pass.